What does the Bible have to say about spouses who don’t “love” each other anymore?
It seems fairly common nowadays that spouses talk about how they have grown apart and have nothing in common. They may even comment that they are not attracted to or in love with each other anymore.
It is important to understand what is meant by the word love and compare it to the love that God wants us to have for each other.
Exploring the four loves
Our English word love has a wide variety of meanings. I can say, “I love my wife,” and I can say, “I love tacos,” but that is not the same thing. The context makes the difference clear.
In Greek, there are four words for love, each with different meanings. Our English word catches fragments of all of the Greek words without expressing any one of them completely.
- Storge. This is the love of dependency. It’s the love that children have for their parents. If you were to ask my youngest two children, “Why do you love Mom and Dad?” they would tell you all of the things we do for them. This also is a beneficial love for marriage. It’s wonderful to appreciate what husband and wife do for each other.
- Philos. This is love on the basis of similarity. It is friendship love. Generally, you have things in common with people you call friends. Most adults are not still best friends with their best friend from kindergarten. Why? It’s not because they are bad people but because they just grew in different ways and are now friends with other people. This too is a beneficial love for marriage. What a blessing that your spouse is your friend!
- Eros. This is the root of our English word erotic. This is the sexual love in a marriage. This too is a beneficial love for marriage. What a blessing to be attracted to your spouse!
- Agape. This is the love that seeks the ultimate good of someone else. This love is solely in the heart of the one who loves apart from any lovable characteristic in the other person. This is the love that says, “I love you because I love you.” So even if your spouse is being unlovable, this love says, “I’m going to do what’s best for you anyway.” This love is not only beneficial for marriage but necessary.
Applying the four loves
The first three “loves” flow toward those who deserve to be loved. Agape love is the only one that flows toward even those who do not deserve to be loved. Can you guess which word Jesus uses when he says, “Love one another” (John 13:34)?
The first three loves change, even in a marriage. Jesus understands the importance of these loves, but he does not command them. Jesus does command us to love each other the way he loved us—with agape love. Even when we didn’t deserve it, even when we were unlovable, Jesus still did what was best for us and gave his life so we might have forgiveness and eternal life. In marriage, the more you show agape love, the more those other loves often grow.
When we understand what agape love is, “I don’t love my spouse anymore” becomes a selfish statement since agape love is a choice one makes to love another. Spouses need to pattern their love after the love Jesus had for them.
Have a question, ask it here!
Author: David Scharf
Volume 109, Number 02
Issue: February 2022
- Q&A: Is anger sinful? - 2023/05/31
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith? - 2023/04/30
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer? - 2023/03/31